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Chapter 1: Red
It was the day Hogwarts expelled me.
All I remember feeling was a vague sense of disappointment actually, because it really wasn’t as monumental as I had imagined this would be. There weren’t any ominous thunder clashes filling the sky overhead, or lightning striking the ground ahead of me; not even a spot of lovely torrential rain to drench me as I toddled off down the road. In fact, it was a sickeningly cheerful looking day- the kind of day that made people want to beam and act all happy-fappy and lovey-dovey.
There wasn’t even a huge crowd of nosy Hogwarts students watching from the hallway, as I walked miserably out of the enormous double doors, because everyone was still in lessons. I briefly considered taking a leaf out of my Uncle’s book and letting off a trunk load of fireworks right about then, just to get any of my friends to notice that I was being expelled here and at least have some sort of mini-triumph to remember fondly when I was grey and old. But nope. I had no fireworks on me. How positively depressing.
Instead of a legendary illegal broomstick flight out of the window to tumultuous rounds of applause and cheering, like Fred and George Weasley, all I got was a few of the Professors- who were sipping tea from chipped mugs and chatting among themselves, as if a student being expelled was just a normal, everyday occurrence. I could imagine them gossiping about the experience later on in the staff room over a nice plate of biscuits. “Ah yes Winifred, guess what? I had the most delightful cup of tea this morning as I sent Lily Potter packing. It had just the right amount of sugar in it, know what I mean?” And then Winifred, whoever she was, would probably say something like,
“Oh really Doris? And what brand of tea bag did you use?”
So I suppose you must be wondering what sort of atrocious crime got me chucked out of the school that even my grandfather, James Potter, wasn’t expelled from. And he was a Marauder. And no, it wasn’t because McGonagall found out about the midnight yoga classes I taught. Or the butterfly farm Hagrid had helped me start up in the forest. It wasn’t even because I’d managed to single-handedly destroy every cauldron in the potions department during my career as Hogwarts’ resident academic failure.
I had been a little low in cash, you see. I needed some more whisperbanana skins for my butterflies, and mats for the yoga classes (I was planning on making it school-wide. Expand my horizons, you know? Because before then I’d only had about five students, all of whom I’d bribed to come along). So I took evasive action.
I sold the Marauder’s Map.
Gasp. Shock. Horror, I know! And believe me, I was as confused as anyone else- it was our family’s property, wasn’t it? So how could they expel me for that? I didn’t even know how they knew I’d sold it.
But it turned out that a new law had been passed after the war finished, claiming any powerful war artefacts as under ‘official Ministry Protection’, which basically meant they weren't allowed to be sold, or damaged, or...simply? Not much could be done to them. But then if you think about it, this was basically not my fault. If someone had thought to tell me about this new-fangled law then of course I wouldn’t have sold the bloody map! I’m not that awful. But to me, it was a bit of old parchment that might’ve got me some extra cash to launch my little business- not one of the main factors that helped defeat Voldemort and the reason that hundreds of people, myself included, are even alive today.
But now my family were probably going to murder me, I’d been expelled from school by people who were obviously all too pleased to see me go, and was still as penniless as beforehand- just without the additional bonus of a school-wide yoga business or butterfly farm.
How annoyingly dire.
I was sweating profusely as I finally reached Hogsmeade. It was a mixture of the unusually warm sun and the thick, Gryffindor robes that I was still wearing. I tore them off quickly as it all started to fully sink in. There was no going back now. No more homework, detentions, stress or drama. I was free for the rest of my life!
Wait, free? Or is there some other adjective we could use here. Like lost.
But I resiliently tied my hair back into a messy ponytail and managed to get myself and a lifetime of crappy possessions to Hogsmeade Station. It took a fair amount of mopey shoving, frustrated stomping and unearthly shrieks of,
“Why, God? WHY?” to the heavens.
And then another complication arose. I had no money for a train ticket home.
I was of the personal opinion that they should just give me a free ticket- I mean, I was probably going to be in a coffin by this evening anyway so there was absolutely no point in the ticket-people delaying my imminent death because of such a flimsy, material thing as money.
But I didn’t think they’d agree with me.
Then I thought about the money I’d got for the Marauder’s Map, stashed away inside a sock (yes, my dad passed on several traits to his poor children). It seemed ironic to have to use it to pay for the ticket that got me home, after being expelled because I even had the money in the first place.
Was the world turning into one big sewer of slap-in-the-face irony?
But it seemed like my only option. And so I got on the train. And my last glimpse of Hogwarts was through grimy, half-steamed-up train windows, the smell of sweat filling my nostrils and dread gathering in the pit of my empty stomach.
They were all waiting for me on the platform as my train pulled into Kings Cross 10 hours later. It was dark and foggy, and I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept; I’d been far too nervous about this meeting.
James and Albus were there, looking grim. Mum had been crying. Grandma Molly had been crying. Everyone had been crying. It was ridiculous- what was there to cry about, really? It wasn’t them who’d been expelled. Dad took some of my things from me stiffly, gesturing for James and Albus to do the same. They both glared, and I shrank back inside my t-shirt.
No-one said a word. The tension could’ve been cut with a very thin object, and I imagined the elastic band of awkwardness between us being pulled tighter and tighter, occasionally putting in a nice twist for good measure.
“I’m sorry.”I blurted the two little words out.
And suddenly, PING! The elastic band snapped, rebounded, and wobbled around in the air for a bit doing strange, half-hearted bungee jumps. Mayhem ensued.
Mum burst into noisy tears, Dad began yelling something angrily, Albus argued with James and James dropped my trunk, spewing underwear and skirts across the muddy platform. I tripped over Grandma Molly and landed on my back, a sea of angry faces looming above me- screeching, crying, and arguing. Blocking out the sky.
I closed my eyes, knowing that I should just let everyone exhaust their voices on me. I assumed my favourite yoga position- plank pose. It was very easy. Lie on your back, close your eyes and breathe deeply while covering the right nostril.
I carried on taking those slow, deep breaths until someone finally noticed that I’d zoned out and shook me up. Mum turned to me, her face blotchy.
“We’ve called a family meeting. Everyone’s at the house. We’ll decide what to do with you there.”
I took a few more deep breaths. “Okay.”
I sat down on the sofa at home with a weary sigh, and someone handed me a cup of tea. They all knew how I hated tea. But whatever. I could pretend to sip it casually, and act all unbothered and hip.
Everyone had gathered like a rather overgrown flock of owls, peering through glasses and large eyes. I was the only one sitting down. How awkward. It occurred to me that I’d never felt this awkward in front of my family before. This was as awkward as the time I hiccupped for a whole day straight.
I tried to find Hugo in the crowd of Weasley-Potter-Delacours, and eventually caught his eye. He flashed me an apologetic grin. I smiled back. He was probably pretty pleased that I’d been expelled; he got to miss a few days of school while the family decided what to do. Unfortunately Albus, James, Rose, Fred, Roxanne and everyone else had already graduated from Hogwarts and there wasn’t the lure of a break from school to make them less angry with me. Hugo was and always would be my greatest ally in all things family related.
Everyone was still just looking at me. I thought that maybe I should actually say something round about now, but I had no idea what. “Again, I’m really sorry…”
“This is serious, Lily. This is bad. This is catastrophically stupendously bad.” I didn’t know who’d spoken which was a little creepy- the voice was lost somewhere in the depths of the family crowd. Maybe it was my conscience talking to me, but that wouldn’t make sense because I did actually know that this was bad and serious and catastrophic already, and didn’t need my conscience to tell me so. And anyway, I have this theory that my conscience is in fact a Martian, so I’ve vowed to never listen to it.
“Lily, I hope you’re ashamed of yourself.” I did see who was talking that time- Aunt Hermione. I blushed a suitable ashamed red colour. Then I spotted my trunk in one corner of the room, crossed over to it and pulled out the sock containing the ‘blood money’. I gave it to Dad. “Er…this is the…you know.” I fidgeted with my nails while Dad tipped the money onto the table, looking confused.
“Where’s the rest of the money? The map was priceless. Whoever you sold it to must’ve given you at least a thousand galleons.” 20 shiny, gold galleons had rolled across the table. One fell off and landed on the carpet with a dull thud. “Please don’t tell me you sold the map for 20 galleons.” Dad sounded heartbroken.
I bit my lip. “Well, I used a few galleons for a train ticket home…”
“Why did you do it, Lily?” It was Uncle Bill who had addressed me this time, as my dad continued to stare at the money on the table/floor in horror.
Now, I had actually prepared a rather long and plausible defence speech to while away the hours on the train (honestly, it was really good. I should be a lawyer), but it all kind of went out of the window precisely when I needed it most. And then of course the final dirty sock thrown onto this gargantuan pile of dirty washing was me, choking on my mouthful of scalding tea, and spewing it over the brand new cream carpet.
Our eyes met. A frosty glaring match that froze my toes took place.
“Go to your room, Lily.” Mum demanded quietly. I stood up meekly, placing the cup of tea on the coffee table carefully before sprinting up the stairs, away from the judgemental glares of my relatives.
It was several days later, and I had been confined to room arrest the entire time, burning under the shame and disappointment of my entire family and then some.
I’d done a lot of thinking over the past few days, using yoga to distract me from the hectic nightmare that my life had become. Except, that was the thing; it wasn’t a hectic nightmare. I was completely and utterly bored, and tired of being treated like a naughty kid locked in her room for stealing biscuits.
One thing I was certain of- I wasn’t staying here for much longer. I had to move out. Prove to my family that I could take care of myself; make sure I didn’t become this useless burden who’s still living with her parents when she’s 55 and going grey. Plus, I shall reinstate how boring it was around here.
Eventually everyone realised that I couldn’t stay in my room forever, and I was called down for breakfast. It wasn’t without a little bit of trepidation that I entered the kitchen, looking a real mess with my red hair sticking up in all directions and my pyjamas at squiffy angles. I glugged down about three glasses of orange juice before uttering a timid ‘good morning’ to the people round the table (Mum, Dad, James, Albus). It was a Saturday, so Dad was reading the Prophet with his feet on the table. Mum shot me a look before shoving a piece of toast into my hand and sitting me down on the nearest chair.
“We need to discuss your options,” she told me in a thick voice.
“Right.” I sighed. Straight into the intense, awkward stuff then. Was I the only person who hated doing anything remotely serious in the morning?
“You achieved average O.W.Ls at best, and now have no N.E.W.Ts. Plus the mark of…ex-expulsion on your CV. You’re completely unemployable. How could you do this to yourself, Lily?” Mum wailed.
“Can’t I just self-employ?” I asked, nibbling at the toast. Dad looked at me for the first time this morning.
“What kind of business do you want to start?”
“Well, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I have two ideas. One: I start my own butterfly farm with additional yoga classes and a knitting shop attached!” My parents paled.
“And idea number two?” Dad ran a hand through his greying hair, looking stressed.
“I become a beggar.” I nodded, then finished off my last bite of toast. Everyone stared at me, not sure whether I was being serious or not.
Unfortunately, I was.
“What?” I asked, “I could make a great beggar. I’ve planned it all out; a few bloodied bandages, rags and mud streaks, chop my hair around a bit. I’d fit right in. And beggars make a fair amount too! I sometimes peek into their bowls on Diagon Alley.”
“Lily,” James said cautiously, “The beggars usually put all their money into their bowls to encourage people to add a bit more to the pile. It’s like…if someone thinks everyone else has given the beggar something, they feel guilty and also give.”
“But how does that work if everyone’s sussed them out?” I frowned.
“That’s the point- it doesn’t work.”
I harrumphed. “Well, which option do you think I should take then?”
“Don’t you think it’d be better to consider something like…a Ministry of Magic receptionist? They earn an okay wage….” I glared at my mum.
“Can you really see me as a receptionist for the rest of my life?” I mimicked a posh voice, “Welcome to the Ministry of Magic! My name is Lily Potter, and may I take your wand for examination please?”
“Well…” Dad coughed, “What other options do you have, to be honest?”
“Options one and two! It’s like deciding between ketchup and mayonnaise! EASY! You just pick the ketchup!”
That analogy made no sense, but Albus seemed to understand it because he was nodding along. But now Mum was yelling and everyone looked uncomfortable.
“I’ll be damned if any daughter of mine ends up as a beggar on the street! You are going to have to go to the Ministry and apply for the receptionist job this afternoon!”
“So you want me to end up killing myself from boredom with all the spangly necklaces and high heels? NO WAY! NEVER! NUH-UH!” I stomped my foot for good effect like the moody teenager I still was for that second. Fab way to prove to my parents that I was mature and sensible enough to potentially move out.
“Fine,” Mum snarled, out of breath. “Do what you want. I don’t care. You got yourself into this mess, and you can bloody well get yourself out of it!”
“Lily is still underage remember, mum.” Albus chipped in, mouth full of cereal. “Can’t she just live here until she turns seventeen and stuff?”
“What?” Mum rubbed her neck, stressed. “Well…I suppose so. Didn’t think of that-“ Oh dear god, no way could I suffer here for six more months. Be ogled at by every distant and annoying Weasley aunt or uncle or great-great-thingymebob, ‘Look there’s Lily Potter the embarrassment of the Potters! She sold their map-thingy’.
I scraped my chair back and went out into the garden, wondering what the future now held for me, and desperately wishing that I could just hide under my duvet covers until this was all over.
Author’s note: So this was originally an angsty ‘oh no I’m expelled from Hogwarts dun dun dunnn!’ fic, but I decided that would be too boring and I wanted to spice things up a little and… well, you’ll see. Hopefully. If you read on (blatant nudge). I rewrote this chapter completely on the 14th June 2012, so hopefully it’s a little better! Thank you for reading (and reviews are groovy).